Ohio

15 Fun & Free Things to Do in Cincinnati, Ohio

by Holly Riddle
Updated October 03, 2022

free things to do in cincinnati ohio
Photo: Henryk Sadura

The Queen City is quickly becoming a favorite travel destination in the Midwest, and for good reason — many of Cincy’s coolest attractions are free.

Cincinnati offers a lot for its size, like a fantastic culinary scene with upcoming restaurants and chefs frequently receiving national acclaim, lots of history and a smattering of art and cultural museums, and a wide array of festivals and sporting events to fill your calendar no matter the season.

The city caters to budget travelers, families and just those wanting to keep their travel costs low (because, after all, the less you spend on each trip, the more trips you can take, right?) with tons to do on the cheap.

Here are 15 of our favorite free things to do in Cincinnati.

1. Browse the stalls at Findlay Market.

free things to do cincinnati - Findlay Market
Photo: Shutterstock

Findlay Market is the oldest continuously operated public market in the state and one of the city’s top tourist attractions.

Take in the historic setting, window shop, browse the vendors’ wares and maybe stop and chat for a bit with the small business owners or the locals. Cincinnati’s Midwestern vibe means just about everyone’s friendly and ready to talk.

2. Take in some presidential history at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

free things to do in cincinnati - william taft historic site
Photo: Jeffrey M. Frank

You don’t need to be dying to learn more about the life of President William Howard Taft in order to enjoy a visit to this national historic site. The free attraction features the historic Greek Revival home where Taft was born and raised, which both history and architecture buffs will love.

The house is still decorated in its Victorian trimmings and you can take a guided ranger tour to learn more. The Taft Education Center on the grounds is a good stop for families who want to give their vacay some educational flair.

3. Tour Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum.

free things to do cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery
Photo: Anne Kitzman

At 733 acres, the Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is one of the largest cemeteries in the country and is worth a visit even if you’re not one to stroll amongst the spirits during your travels. The national historic landmark was chartered in the 1840s and, in addition to the actual cemetery, also offers an open-air museum and arboretum grounds.

Pick up a map or download the site’s app to take a self-guided tour by car, foot or bike. The tour includes stops at the Gothic carriage house, the 1800s Norman chapel (which also doubled as a jail at one point), a neoclassical temple and more.

4. Check out what’s happening at Fountain Square.

free things to do cincinnati - Fountain Square
Photo: Kenneth Sponsler

Fountain Square is one of Cincinnati’s most recognizable landmarks, with its historic fountain dating back to the 1870s towering over a bustling square.

You’ll just about always find free programming happening at this photo-worthy locale, whether it’s a festival, fair or farmers market. Catch salsa dancing every week, trivia nights, food truck rallies — you never quite know what you’ll discover!

5. Explore art and more at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

If you’ve visited your fair share of art museums during your travels, then you know what a rarity it is to find an art museum that’s both impressive and free, but that’s exactly the case at Cincinnati Art Museum.

One of the country’s oldest art museums, with more than 67,000 permanent pieces covering more than 6,000 years of history, the museum is a can’t-miss for any art lover on a budget.

6. Stop in at the gallery at 21c Museum and Hotel.

If you don’t quite have time to make it out to the museum, you can drop into the 21c Museum and Hotel downtown and check out their free gallery. While an art museum inside a hotel may not sound like it’s going to be all that spectacular, you may just be surprised at the wealth of artwork the hospitality brand puts on display at its properties, as well as how often they change out exhibitions and the unique themes they take on.

You can stop in to view the gallery at any time of day or night, but stop by at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday or Friday for a free docent tour.

7. Escape to Eden Park.

free things to do cincinnati - Eden Park
Photo: Shutterstock

Cincinnati offers a wealth of green space and one of the city’s most popular  is Eden Park. From the pavilion to the gazebo, magnolia garden to the lake that was once an old quarry, you’ll see a beautiful array of scenery as you meander along the lengthy walking paths.

Bring your camera to snap some pics of the views of the Ohio River and, beyond, the hills of Kentucky.

8. Stroll through Smale Riverfront Park.

free things to do cincinnati - Smale Riverfront Park
Photo: Chris LaBasco

While Eden Park may be one of Cincinnati’s most popular green spaces, Smale Riverfront Park is one of the city’s newest. The gorgeous waterfront addition to the city is easily accessible from some of the busiest areas of town, making it a convenient escape.

The modern design incorporates eye-catching structural, water and lighting elements. Snag an oversized, adult-friendly swing and channel your inner kid at the all-ages play space, which features interactive elements such as a foot piano.

9. Stop into the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Contemporary Arts Center (@cincycac)

Another uniquely free offering in Cincinnati is the Contemporary Arts Center — one of the first modern art museums in the country, getting its start in the 1930s.

You can’t miss this centrally located building, with its sleek, geometric architecture that’s a work of art all on its own. Inside, you’ll find contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, multimedia art and more.

10. Cross the Ohio River.

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
Photo: Shutterstock

For views that you won’t be able to see by car, take a walk across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. The stunning blue bridge was designed by the same mind behind the Brooklyn Bridge and you’ll likely be able to spot the similarities.

At more than a thousand feet in length, stretching over the Ohio River and connecting Ohio and Kentucky, the structure was a modern marvel when it opened in 1866 and held the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world for over a decade. Pedestrians can take to the bridge for incredible views of both sides of the river.

11. Take a self-guided tour of the city’s public art.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by ArtWorks Cincinnati (@artworkscincy)

Cincinnati doesn’t just allow you to visit many of its multiple art museums for free; you can also find incredible artwork on nearly every street corner thanks to the city’s expansive public arts programming and the ArtWorks organization that’s scattered hundreds of murals across more than 36 neighborhoods and adjacent towns.

While ArtWorks Cincinnati does offer guided, paid tours of the murals, you can also take neighborhood-specific, free, self-guided walking tours by downloading the ArtWorks most recent map and guide.

12. Hike through Mount Airy Forest.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Cincinnati Parks (@cincyparks)

Be sure to bring your hiking boots break them out for a visit to Mount Airy Forest. At about 1,500 acres, the man-made forest is the largest parkland in the city, with hiking aplenty. Most of the trails are rated as easy or moderate, and many are on the shorter side, at around a mile or two.

However, if you really want to get your steps in for the day, you can take the 13.9-mile Mount Airy Explorer’s Trail, which is a little less-traveled and takes about six hours to complete.

13. Check out the local art at the Weston Art Gallery.

Beyond the local art you can see by exploring the public art scattered throughout Cincinnati, you can also see regional and local art indoors, when you visit the free Weston Art Gallery.

The smaller and more intimate space, with 3,500 square feet of exhibitions pace, the gallery focuses on visual arts of all types from regional and local creators. You can find free tours and events on offer regularly.

14. Browse the stacks at Mercantile Library.

While you may not normally say “fun vacation activities” and “going to the library” in the same sentence, you might want to reconsider when it comes to Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library. Often called one of the city’s best hidden gems, this beautiful library is home to the oldest public art collection in the city with a massive selection of over 80,000 books.

While the library is a private, membership-funded library, it’s free for the public to visit, see the architecture and history, and maybe even spot a ghost — the library is rumored to be haunted!

15. See the cats at the Lucky Cat Museum.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lucky Cat Museum (@luckycatmuseum)

You know lucky cats, right? The little feline figurines that sit in shop windows and wave at passersbys? Well, Cincinnati has an entire museum dedicated to them, and it’s free to visit.

You will have to make an appointment, but, if you do, you’ll be treated to a whimsical small space jam-packed with cats. As the creators say “Why? Because cats. That’s why.”

Where to Go Next in the Midwest

Get epic travel ideas delivered to your inbox with Weekend Wanderer, our newsletter inspiring thousands of readers every week.


Seen in: Midwest, Ohio, Things to Do

Find your next adventure

Sign up for Weekend Wanderer and join thousands of readers getting epic travel ideas weekly.

Related Posts